Amy Rosen’s ode to cinnamon buns, a timeless classic

ROSEN'S CINNAMON BUNS (825 College, at Ossington, 416-534-2856, facebook.com/Rosensbuns). Cinnamon buns $4. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Access: Three steps at.


ROSEN’S CINNAMON BUNS (825 College, at Ossington, 416-534-2856, facebook.com/Rosensbuns). Cinnamon buns $4. Open Wednesday through Sunday. Access: Three steps at door, no public washroom. See listing.

So, wait they just sell cinnamon buns?

That appears to be a fairly standard reaction to news of food-writer-turned-entrepreneur Amy Rosens new venture, the aptly named Rosens Cinnamon Buns, where the doughy, sweet treats do indeed take top and only billing.

Compared to the bakers dozens of successful local shops that pile display cases with a broad array of products or stick to one product but mess with infinite flavour combinations (cupcakes or donuts, for example), Rosens business plan might seem like stubborn self-pigeonholing. Will potential repeat visitors get burned out on dense, chewy swirls of sticky dough?

As it turns out, since opening last month, Rosen has had precisely the opposite problem.

Ive had people coming in every day since we opened the same people, Rosen says, in a brief break between slinging buns to a steady stream of mid-afternoon customers.

And not just repeat customers, but repeat (visitors) that were out of luck because wed sold out. The first few weeks, some people had to try three times.

Other people were, like, Wow, youre really raising demand! But it wasnt on purpose. We had no idea we would sell 500 in a day. I thought it would be 200 at our peak.

Rosens nose for research served her well when putting the business together (though she didnt exactly count on the runaway success). After a New Years Day brunch in which several generations of Rosen relatives all chowed down on fresh cinnamon buns in blissful silence, Rosen sprang into action, checking out local offerings to see if her new business idea would fly.

I started researching it, and I was like, Its either Cinnabon or the two pans at your favourite bakery, and once theyre sold out, theyre sold out. Same as the farmers market. No one was making homemade, organic dairy, flavourful cinnamon buns, hot and fresh, all day long.

So I was like, you know what? Let that person be me.

With a skeleton crew of two recent George Brown grads, Rosen turns out pan after piping-hot pan of well-spiced, moist, not-too-sweet buns. Thanks to skills honed over years of recipe testing for Chatelaine, House & Home and her own Toronto Cooks cookbook, Rosen was able to tease out the buns most crowd-pleasing attributes and hold them in perfectly complementary proportions.

I was trying to make the perfect, balanced cinnamon bun, for people who dont like things overly sweet or overly buttery, overly goopy or overly glazed, she says.

There are some people who will come in and say they want it with no glaze. But the dough is so unsweetened, almost theres just a few tablespoons of sugar in it that it needs the glaze to balance it.

She considered using brioche dough to up the decadence factor but found that everyone who tried it preferred a springier bread dough it stands up better to the cinnamon filling, which Rosen refers to as the goop. Theres 10 times the amount of cinnamon in hers as in a regular recipe, she says though that magically doesnt escalate things to cinnamon-challenge-levels of overkill. Shes considering selling the goop separately for people to put on toast. In my view, thats a business move that would be second only to just coring the hot, pliant, spice-soaked middles right out of the buns and selling them alone, a la Seinfeld muffin-top cafe.

Currently, Rosens forays into product diversification are limited to miniature pans of cinnamon-bun bread pudding made with the bakerys seconds and hot drip coffee from Ezras Pound. For the holidays, shes bringing in hot apple cider and Chrismukkah buns topped with eggnog glaze and Hanukkah gelt. She and her bakers might mess around with brownies or squares every so often.

For the most part, however, shes happy to fall in line with the keep it simple ethos that characterizes some of the citys hippest new eateries.

Im very into the success of the one-off, right? Doing one thing really well. Like Bang Bang ice cream. I mean, theres something new practically every week. Who knew poke would be the next big thing, right? Or tacos. Or the burger-only places. Or the chicken-only places.

Spoken like a true food writer but at the same time, she adds, the cinnamon bun is more about nostalgia than novelty.

Its old people coming in and saying, Oh, it smells like when I met my wife at Jewish summer camp.

Cinnamon buns are timeless.

Beaches Bakeshop This east-end shop deals in Swedish specialties like coarse-sugar-topped buns infused with freshly ground cardamom. 900 Kingston, 416-686-2391, beachesbakeshop.com

Bunners We promise non-vegans wont even miss the dairy in these cinnamon buns. The bakerys won NOW Readers Choice honours several times over. 3054 Dundas West, 647-352-2975 244 Augusta, 647-350-2975, bunners.ca

Fika This button-cute Kensington cafe also follows Swedish tradition by piling on the cardamom. (Get a matching latte if that aint enough spice for you.) 28 Kensington, at Baldwin, 416-994-7669, fika.ca

Mabels You gotta be quick on the draw at this trio of west-side bakeries the cinnamon buns tend to sell out early. 323 Roncesvalles, 416-534-2333 1156 Queen West, 647-748-4700 746 St. Clair West, 647-347-5520 mabelsbakery.ca

Toris Bakeshop These organic buns swap the milk, refined sugar and butter for soy milk, brown sugar and Earth Balance without sacrificing flavor. 2188 Queen East, 647-350-6500, torisbakeshop.ca

Cinnabon Specifically, the location that makes subway journeys through Eglinton station such sweet, sweet torture. 2200 Yonge (in Eglinton TTC station), 416-488-2779, cinnabon.com

nataliam@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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